Daily Press (Sunday)

At a crossroad

Voters this week have a choice between visions for Virginia’s future


When Virginia voters head to the polls on Tuesday, they should do so with enthusiasm and optimism. Before them is the opportunit­y to select all 140 members of the General Assembly and set the commonweal­th’s course for the next two years.

Virginians know the stakes and how policy priorities would change on a host of issues should one party or the other take full control of the legislatur­e. It is essential they make informed choices to ensure the commonweal­th continues to be a place we are proud to call home.

The two major parties, political action committees and the candidates themselves have spent millions this election cycle to convince Virginians that their side is worthy of voters’ trust and confidence. All indication­s are this will be the most expensive legislativ­e election in state history.

Voters have a wealth of informatio­n about what each party would do if handed majorities in the General Assembly, including our guide to races in Hampton Roads, available at pilotonlin­e.com/2023electi­onguide and dailypress.com/2023electi­onguide.

With Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin only two years into his term, he would be more likely to enact his policy agenda if Republican­s can capture the Senate and hold its majority in the House. Conversely, he would likely be stymied should Democrats seize the House and retain their Senate majority.

But this election isn’t as much about Youngkin, and his possible aspiration­s for higher office, as it is about the issues facing the commonweal­th and finding workable, common-sense solutions to persistent public problems.

On climate change and resilience, for instance, the two parties are miles apart. Republican­s in the House tried to repeal Virginia’s membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which funds flood protection and energy efficiency programs throughout Virginia. Democrats, whose legislatio­n ushered the commonweal­th into the multistate market-based cap-and-trade program, would look to preserve membership.

The debate over abortion access exploded following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, and the two parties have sharply contrastin­g views about how Virginia

should adapt to the new landscape.

Republican­s have largely coalesced around an abortion ban after 15 weeks, with exceptions for rape, incest and to save the mother’s life. Democrats have vowed to prevent further restrictio­ns to access. Some advocate amending the state Constituti­on to protect that right, but Democrats did not pass such an amendment when they controlled both legislativ­e chambers under Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat.

Under Youngkin, Republican­s have made “parental rights” a centerpiec­e of their platform. His administra­tion has dramatical­ly changed the history curriculum and made life more difficult for LGBTQ+ youth while also miscalcula­ting funding for local school districts. His executive order banning “critical race theory” from the classroom was successful if only because it was never taught in public schools.

Virginia has been a battlegrou­nd about the future of education, with Republican­s favoring school choice programs that would spend public dollars on private schools while Democratic senators insisted on using some of the commonweal­th’s record budget surplus on public schools.

One area, mental health, has drawn bipartisan support, to politician­s’ credit and to the benefit of the commonweal­th. Youngkin’s “Right Help, Right Now” behavioral health plan was backed with money in the state budget deal and enjoyed strong support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

But on public safety, the economy, transporta­tion, marijuana legalizati­on and a host of other issues, the parties have very different approaches as to how Virginia should proceed. While some voters argue the two parties are virtually indistingu­ishable, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Rather, Virginia voters have a choice between two contrastin­g visions for the commonweal­th’s future. To have such a choice, to live in a competitiv­e state, is rare, and we shouldn’t take for granted that the choice for how Virginia looks in the future will be decided by the people in the coming days.

That’s why this election is so important and why Virginians casting a ballot this year must make thoughtful, informed choices at the polls. Whatever your hope for the outcome, please vote on Tuesday.

 ?? STAFF FILE ?? The Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, photograph­ed on Jan. 3, 2020.
STAFF FILE The Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, photograph­ed on Jan. 3, 2020.

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